By Jason Keidel
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We’ve all heard quaint tales told of a fledgling, future All-Star carded at the door to their home arena, some cop moonlighting as a security guard unaware that the young man just signed a $50 million tender to play ball and doubled-down on a sneaker deal to pimp his kicks to the next generation of young ballers Chris Paul and Spudd Webb come to mind. And maybe Jason Kidd had that problem – 20 years ago!
The Knicks needed Kidd five years ago, when he was still cognizant of the salad days. A big name on the marquee is meaningless if he’s no longer a marquee player. Perhaps the Knicks were spellbound not only by brand recognition but also the scent of Kidd’s recent, overdue, and much-deserved championship ring, forgetting that he largely rode Dirk Nowitzki’s cape to that title.
Now the Knicks have become a shelter for the AARP crowd, a hardwood retirement home. And leave it to them to lose Jeremy Lin, the one bright spot in a sordid season.
Then they bag Marcus Camby, another player who was drafted during the Clinton Administration, the Stone Age of CD players and VHS rentals. The Knicks give new meaning to “new wrinkle” on the court. Camby. Kidd. Steve Nash. What, Robert Parrish wasn’t available? Norm Nixon?
Nice trick driving into that telephone pole the other night. Combine a DUI with a domestic violence rap, and Kidd can just wear a wife beater on the court with his name on the back and his new number issued by the NYPD. Nothing like an ancient star still addicted to La Vida Loca. The lone benefit of getting old is supposed to be wisdom. Kidd didn’t get the memo.
This is what the Knicks do: they are all about the splash and splendor of big names, with no regard to their past or prologue to the upcoming season. As always, the Knicks make no distinction between character and characters.
Ten years ago, Jason Kidd gave those of us who despise the Dolans a reason to watch regional basketball. He singularly carried the Nets to consecutive NBA Finals. A decade ago. Camby, along with Latrell Sprewell – another heralded Samaritan from Herald Square – led the Knicks to the NBA Finals. A decade ago.
In summary, the Knicks are where they want to be, in their ancestral refrain – anarchy. Their meal ticket, Jeremy Lin, priced himself out of the Knicks’ payroll, leaving them with the ancient, aforementioned Kidd and Raymond Felton at point.
Then Carmelo Anthony, who makes all his noise outside the lines, questioned the sanity of Linsanity, disparaging the contract he signed with Houston. Perhaps someone should remind ‘Melo that his hefty contract ($100 million) is another case of misguided money. For the man with the worst playoff record in NBA history to question anyone else’s bloated deal speaks to ‘Melo’s myopia, if not stupidity.
Jeremy Lin, though probably not worth the $25 million the Rockets rained on him, was an oasis in Manhattan, a heat wave on Broadway’s frostbitten corners. For two unprecedented weeks, Lin let us into the fantasy world of the instant star, hit by a random bolt of lightning on Seventh Avenue. And then it was gone. And then we were left with Amar’e and Anthony, two men who demand all the money and command no respect.
It says here that Jason Kidd may go down as the most underrated point guard – or player – of my lifetime. In the middle of the swamp, the Izod Center doubled as a diamond in the industrial debris of Northern New Jersey. And while Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin were fine players, their subsequent, post-Kidd careers showed us that Kidd carried the Nets to two NBA Finals. He had that kind of talent, the best pure point guard since Magic Johnson.
But that was a long time ago. Despite what they pawn few blocks north of MSG, theaters humming with acting and dancing and selling you two hours of escape, it’s not real. Neither are the Knicks, a comedy act on yet another yearly tour, the NBA’s Court Jesters for four decades. They haven’t given you a reason to take them seriously since your parents squatted on their hair in Sheep Meadow circa ’73. That was a long time ago. Not even Kidd and Camby recall it.
Feel free to email me: Keidel.Jason@gmail.com